Red Thread Transformation: Building Blocks Of Connected Transformation (Part 2)

David B. Smith

Part 2 in a 2-part series about the importance of devising a structured and referenceable digital transformation strategy. Read Part 1

In Part 1 of this series, we addressed the idea of “looking through the right lens” for transformation by moving to an intelligent ERP system. Now, let’s now unpack what needs to be thought through and understand how each of these layers helps connect a logical and rational approach to transformation: “Why do you need to do what?” “What can you achieve?” and “How can you make it happen?”

Threaded thinking

Ambition: Why do you need to do what? Companies typically believe in the value of strategic and vision planning, and these are often deconstructed into corporate and departmental strategies, roadmaps, plans, and programs that can be referenced to create a lighthouse articulation of where the business wants to go.

Business capability modeling enables a clear articulation of the business ambition: what capabilities are needed to support the strategic intent. Once constructed and agreed upon with the business, this is the framework to help position the potential “pains and gains” in relation to capabilities.

Organizations need to know where they are going and for everyone to understand how to plot a way forward and measure success. This intent should be then further elaborated with experts from the solution provider in focused sessions sharing real experience from other customers on how to achieve this.

These sessions identify the pain points that can be alleviated and the gains to be achieved, informed by the “art of the possible” into a consolidated view from which to create tangible business value.

Value: What can you achieve? At the heart of any successful business-change program is a true understanding of the opportunities and challenges. This is where the light bulbs start switching on and the program starts coalescing.

Business and IT must engage in content sessions with experienced consultants and architects to detail how to close the gaps in current business capabilities to resolve the pains and make the gains. At this point, the business innovation opportunities are explored in light of the solution provider’s product and innovation roadmap for priority areas of the business capability model.

In these sessions, a common understanding is defined on the opportunity and the solution though the explanation of strategic gaps, pains and gains, and demonstration of product capabilities and innovations, product roadmaps, and pragmatic customer experience.

Essentially, this helps share an understand of the challenges and the potential solutions to establish solution fit, and get buy-in by demonstrating the business value in a more hands-on way. Furthermore, it establishes confidence in the ability to deliver business value.

It’s then a classic process of defining opportunities, validating performance through benchmarking, and articulating the value potential. “Must-haves,” “quick wins,” low- hanging fruit,” and “forget it’s” are prioritized into a set of focused opportunities.

Direction: How can you make it happen? Up to now, the focus has been on a forward-thinking view of business potential, prioritizing value. The challenge now is to design a successful transformation program to achieve this potential. This is where ideation hits the reality of how to make it happen.

A straw-man future solution model can then be built embedding all the capabilities into an architecture showing how the strategic intent is delivered by business capabilities, and what application services will be employed.

Early-stage opportunity potential will be identified that needs further evaluation as proofs of concept or co-innovation with product teams. Roadmaps will be developed for each function area, describing the business opportunities aligned to the core product roadmap to secure a future-proofed functional roadmap, taking advantage of the standard product. This then needs to have been consolidated into a single roadmap to show how the business can deliver future business capabilities in an integrated platform.

The challenge now remains to plot dependencies around the business priorities, other programs, product roadmap, and technical dependencies. A review of implementation approach options, pros, and cons will then help define the best implementation approach. The outcome is then a firm and trustworthy transformation roadmap and plan as the foundation for a business case.

The final step is to summarize this work into a case for change and to make recommendations to the board with a robust business case and proposition. This will make clear how the proposed plan supports the strategic business intent, the true business value potential, the cost of viable options and plans to secure the investment, and the recommendations for immediate plans and resources needed to make this a reality.


It is essential that business challenges and digital changes be guided by a clear line of sight of a thread connecting business ambition, the value, and a carefully thought-out navigation of the direction to get there.

By investing in this structured process, the transformation program is informed, clear, and purposeful. It will demonstrate the benefits of a tightly oriented team that can efficiently deliver its business outcomes.

Why look to SAP for help

In collaboration with the business, IT, and partners, SAP Digital Business Services can provide the glue to help your organization navigate across this “red thread” to articulate how technology solutions in the hands of an empowered workforce can deliver on strategic goals. SAP  consultants and architects connect via their own networks to engage SAP product owners and developers in this dialogue. They also advise on using the latest agile accelerators, tools, and methods to design, implement, and support these solutions most effectively.

Discover how SAP S/4HANA can help you transform your business for dramatic results.

David B. Smith

About David B. Smith

David B. Smith is a chief business transformation director within the Business Transformation Services (BTS) team, at SAP. He advises major global and UK clients on how to drive transformation agenda to make the most of their investments in SAP solutions. David started work in the manufacturing sector and has broadened that experience to include business and digital strategy as well as transformation programs across a range of industries including utilities, finance, consumer products, telecommunications, and government. He is an experienced senior business Management consultant with a passion for delivering business transformation through strategy, design, and delivery. David has over 30 years of strategy and program management and business consulting with the likes of SAP, EY, Capgemini, and Andersen Consulting.